Thursday, February 27, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Rail fares, freight rates untouched
Shatabdi, Rajdhani travel to cost less; 50 new trains
Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Union Railway Minister Nitish Kumar arrives to present the Railway Budget
Union Railway Minister Nitish Kumar arrives to present the Railway Budget at Parliament House in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, February 26
In a delicate balancing act, Union Railway Minister Nitish Kumar today sought to camouflage populism with innovative economic measures by leaving freight rates and passenger fares untouched.

He reduced the fares of the premium Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Jan Shatabdi Express trains, introduced 50 trains, increased the frequencies of 13 popular trains and extended the run of 24 trains falling under various zones.

“For the year 2003-04, I do not propose any increase in passenger fares”, Mr Nitish Kumar said, while unveiling the Railway Budget proposals in the Lok Sabha today. The Railways expected an 11 per cent jump in revenues in 2003-2004 and were expected to end the year with a surplus of Rs 600 crore. With an eye on this winter’s Assembly elections and next year’s general election, he announced that 2003 would be the year of customer satisfaction.

In fact, the fare and freight rationalisation exercise would effectively reduce the fares of Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Jan Shatabdi Express trains by linking them to those being charged for similar classes in the mail/express trains running in the same sectors. It would also reduce the number of classes of freight from the existing 32 to 27.

The proposal was to fix the basic fare for each class of Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains 15 per cent higher than the fares of corresponding superfast mail/express trains.

“As a result of rationalisation, the basic fares of different classes of Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains will be lower for most of the pairs of stations”, Mr Nitish Kumar observed.

In exceptional cases, however, revised fares might be higher than the existing fares, in which case the existing fares would be applicable.

Further, in an attempt to make Jan Shatabdi Express, a run-down version of the Shatabdi Express, more popular, it had been proposed to fix the fares at 5 per cent (down from the existing 10 per cent) higher than the corresponding fares of other mail/express trains on the same sector.

Under the revised fares, the basic fare of AC chair-car ticket on the New Delhi-Chandigarh Shatabdi Express would be Rs 356, down from Rs 377, while that of executive class would be Rs 712, down from Rs 782.

The basic fare of AC chair-car on New Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express would be Rs 512, down from Rs 525 while that of executive class would come down to Rs 1,024 from the existing Rs 1,093.

The proposed second class fare on the New Delhi-Chandigarh Jan Shatabdi was Rs 110, down from the existing Rs 150 while that of AC chair-car was proposed to be brought down to Rs 325 from Rs 385.

Taking a leaf out of the airline industry fare rates, Mr Kumar also proposed to introduce the concept of peak and off-peak period fares on an experimental basis in Rajdhani Express.

The off-peak period fares would be applicable during the period from July 15 to September 15 in AC first class and AC two-tier classes of all Rajdhani Express trains, would be fixed at 10 per cent of the basic fares of corresponding classes in mail/express trains.

“To make the freight rates and passenger fares competitive and increase the Railways’ share in the transport sector, it is necessary to continue the process of rationalisation and re-balancing of tariffs”, Mr Nitish Kumar emphasised. In another measure aimed at enhancing customer satisfaction, the rules in respect to passengers in the waiting list boarding mail/express trains would now be applicable to passengers in the waiting lists of Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Jan Shatabdi Express trains also. At present, if a passenger in the waiting list boarded a Rajdhani or Shatabdi Express train, excess fare, equal to the ticket fare, was charged.

Further, it had been proposed to permit refunds of the amount due from any passenger reservation centre, three hours after the train had reached its destination — a clear departure from the existing measure where to obtain a refund against a reserved ticket after the departure of a train was still a problem. In case a confirmed or RAC ticket was lost by a passenger, under the existing system, a duplicate ticket could be issued, before preparation of the reservation chart, on payment of 10 per cent or 25 per cent of full fare based on the distance of the journey or type of the train.

It had now been proposed that charges for issuing such a duplicate ticket would be refundable at a reservation centre at the destination on completion of the journey. The measures were expected to increase the originating passenger traffic by 3 per cent and was estimated to increase the earnings by 7 per cent over the revised estimates of the current fiscal year. The gross traffic receipts (GTR) were estimated at Rs 43,495 crore during 2003-04 — Rs 2,628 crore higher than the revised estimates of the current financial year — an assumption based on increased volume due to reduced fares.

On the freight structure, it had been proposed to reduce the total number of classes from 32 to 27 implying that the freight rates for petrol and petrol products would come down by 10.7 per cent, while that of cement, clinker, manganese ore and caustic soda liquid would reduce by 3.7 per cent. The annual plan for the Railways for the next fiscal had been fixed at Rs 12,918 crore, including an outlay of Rs 2,311 crore, through a Special Railway Safety Fund.



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